Monday, February 13, 2012

Who's doing the energy lobbying?

"Traditional Sources of Energy" circa 1939 | Credit: LOC
The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota released a "report" today that purports to document a shadowy conspiracy of clean energy lobbyists attempting to "rewrite Minnesota environmental policy."
A Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM) investigation reveals that nine national foundations have steered $48 million in funding to more than 40 non-profits and local governments since 2003 in an aggressive campaign to radically rewrite Minnesota environmental policy.
Ooh, that sounds like a travesty. But wait, it gets even more dangerous:
In Minnesota, RE-AMP-supported nonprofits have registered dozens of lobbyists to become a major force at the Minnesota Capitol, according to state records. The group’s legislative muscle helped pass a series of far-reaching environmental laws capped by the 2007 Minnesota Next Generation Act, which included the Midwest’s most stringent mandates on carbon emissions, renewable energy and efficiency.
Oh no, "dozens of lobbyists?" "Major force" at the Capitol? If only someone would defend utility companies and coal and oil interests from this onslaught of green!

Let's look a little closer at some real numbers about energy lobbying in St. Paul. If you take all of the nonprofits in the Freedom Foundation report (excluding Minnesota Public Radio, who lobbies for a lot of things, but clean energy's not really one of them) and add up all of their lobbying spending from 2005-2010, it totals $3.9 million. Compared to a combined $23.9 million spent by utilities and fossil fuel companies over the same period, it's clear that the greens are obliterating the defenseless energy companies.

The largest lobbying presence at the Capitol in 2010 was Xcel Energy, and that's been true for a long time. In fact, over the same 2005-2010 period, Xcel alone spent over $10.6 million lobbying in Minnesota. When you combine that with another $9.36 million spent on lobbying the U.S. Congress (search for Registrant = Xcel) over the same period, you get $20 million.

I'm glad that the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota is reminding people that energy lobbying happens at the Capitol. But the idea that it's a shadowy network of nonprofits and green activists who have the upper hand is one of the most laughable ideas I've heard in a long time.

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